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If you’re looking to visit Orlando to experience the magic of Walt Disney World or Universal Studios, then you’ve probably been questioning where to stay.
Two options that have likely already crossed your radar are Kissimmee and International Drive, as they both offer close proximity to the attractions and entertainment while also boasting a variety of accommodation options.
However, which location should you choose?
If you’re looking to visit Walt Disney World for more than three days, then Kissimmee is likely your best option since it’s closest to the resort’s entrance. However, if you don’t plan to hire a car, you should check out International Drive as it has better public transport connections.
Aside from the proximity to primary attractions you plan to visit, there are some other factors that you might want to consider when choosing between Kissimmee and International Drive.
For this reason, we’ve gone ahead and broken this article down to focus on location, accommodation options and the nearby amenities of each.
The largest city in Osceola County, Florida, Kissimmee still retains some of its old-world charm while being a central hub for visitors to Orlando’s main attractions.
With a great choice of restaurants, bars, and amenities alongside an incredible variety of accommodation options, Kissimmee is incredibly popular with large families.
The city of Kissimmee is just south of Orlando, around 17 miles from the International Airport (MCO), which means you can get from the airport car park to your hotel, villa or resort in under 40 minutes in good traffic.
However, this region is also in a prime location for the incredible Orlando theme parks. The two closest of which are Walt Disney World and Seaworld, just 14 miles away, with Universal Studios 18 miles north of the city along the Florida Turnpike.
With more than 120 hotels and 50,000 family vacation homes, it’s safe to say accommodation options in Kissimmee are plentiful. That said, we still recommend booking early, as the most popular locations can sell out quickly, especially during the peak season.
Budget hotels in Kissimmee go for around $120 per night, while luxury resorts can often exceed $500. Some of our favourite accommodation options in Kissimmee include;
We’d recommend staying in Kissimmee if you’re looking to stay in a vacation rental, as there is significantly more choice when compared to that on International Drive. In fact, with more than 50,000 vacation rentals in the city, you’ll find everything from condos to eight-bed mansions with private swimming pools.
You’ll find everything that makes a vacation great in Kissimmee, given its size and popularity. From luxury brand outlets to affordable restaurants, it’s all here!
The city has eight shopping malls, five Walmarts and hundreds of bars and restaurants – both mainstream and independent.
While the big attractions are often the main reason for staying in Kissimmee, some of the lesser-known local attractions we recommend checking out include;
Gatorland – An alligator experience like no other!
The Old Town – Home to unique independent stores & carnival rides
Fun Spot – An independent theme park
Unlike Kissimmee, International Drive is not a city but the main route through Orlando that cuts by all the major attractions, including Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, and more.
This is the main tourist strip for visitors to Orlando, and as such, you’ll find an extensive range of accommodations and amenities with all budgets catered for.
The distance from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to International Drive depends on where you’re staying on this thoroughfare; however, in most cases, you’ll be looking at between 15 and 20 miles which takes between 25 and 40 minutes depending on traffic.
International Drive is in a fantastic location, with the entrance to Walt Disney World less than a 10-minute drive away and the entrance to Universal Studios less than 30 minutes away.
Being that International Drive is the major thoroughfare for Orlando, it’s the perfect choice if you’re not planning on hiring a car during your trip and would instead like to walk or take public transport.
The LYNX bus service has multiple stops along International Drive but also goes into Downtown Orlando, to Walt Disney World and even Orlando International Airport.
There’s also the I-Ride trolley system for more casual routes, which operates from 8am until 10.30pm daily. The trolley service runs along International Drive and Universal Boulevard, and with single fares at $2 and fourteen-day passes available for just $18, it’s easy to see why those on a budget favour international Drive.
Unlike Kissimmee, most accommodation options on International Drive are hotels and resorts with a range of options to suit all budgets and prices starting from $80 per night. Some of our favourite accommodation options on International Drive include;
With so many fantastic options to choose from it can sometimes feel overwhelming to find the right hotel on International Drive. Instead, we recommend choosing to focus on either a location within the city, a price point or amenities (such as a lazy river, waterslides etc.)
Along the 11-mile long International Drive, you’ll find everything from luxury goods to everyday essentials, plus an incredible number of restaurants, bars, cafés and independent attractions.
While Orlando’s major attractions are often the main reason for staying on International Drive, some of the lesser-known attractions we recommend checking out include;
The World’s Largest McDonalds – A McDonalds the size of Walmart!
Madame Tussauds – Take photos with wax figures of significant icons
Lost Caverns Adventure Golf – Orlando’s newest adventure golf attraction
What’s The Difference Between Kissimmee & International Drive?
By this point, you’ve likely realised that the most significant differences between Kissimme and International Drive are the style of accommodation and connections to major attractions.
Kissimmee is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a vacation rental and looking to be within close proximity to the action – but not actually in the action.
Meanwhile, International Drive is a hive of activity day and night which can be great if you don’t have a hire car as it means that most amenities are within walking distance of other major attractions connected by frequent public transport.
As such, if you’re a large family or planning to spend more than five nights in Orlando, I’d recommend looking at a villa in Kissimmee.
While if you’re a solo traveller or a couple looking to avoid hiring a car during your vacation, I’d recommend checking out some of the hotels and resorts on International Drive, especially those that offer shuttles to major parks.